- Christian, but not stupid — Kirk Franklin’s music could turn Nietzsche into a believer.
I know, I know. The Christian music scene has made great advancements in the area of production, the religious albums sound great and now go toe-to-toe with the seculars, and blah blah blah. But what seven-time Grammy winner Kirk Franklin did with Hello Fear, his latest album of self-penned songs, goes beyond the G-word — it is a stunning display of song craft and a well-produced mix of R & B, pop, and old-school Sunday morning gospel.
“What I try to do is use the gift that I’ve been given to really try to make good music,” said Fort Worth-born Franklin on the phone from his home in Arlington. “I try to make the production just as comparable to any other genre of music that a person may hear, so that when they listen to it they are still impressed with the creative aspect and approach.”
Shortly after its March release, Hello Fear topped Billboard’s Gospel chart and reached number five in the Top-200, making it the fourth highest Gospel debut in SoundScan history. At press time, the single “I Smile” was number three at Urban AC radio and number one at Gospel radio (for 23 consecutive weeks).
The album is solid from beginning to end, but it just explodes whenever he looses an African-American choir powerful enough to make a believer out of the staunchest atheist.
“That’s just something that’s kind of a by- product of being raised, living, and being exposed to all the musical brilliance of that [church] community,” said Franklin, 41, who used to sing regularly at San Antonio’s Macedonia Baptist Church when he was in his 20s. “I want people to know how excited I am to come to San Antonio. I used to fly down to San Antonio every other Sunday and play for the church. I love San Antonio. As a matter of fact, every spring break with my family, we’re always in San Antonio.”
In Hello Fear, Franklin tackles his demons headfirst, whether that means family issues or bad religious leaders. He’s smart in that while he keeps the lyrics strictly Christian, he’s singing for everyone as his own man and remains detached from the mainstream conservative so-called Christian establishment.
“Well, there’s definitely a revolution taking place,” he said, not exactly referring to that of the Tea Party. “There’s a voice of the oppressed that is really loud and needs to be heard, and I will always be one that will side on the voice of the oppressed.”
How dare he said that? That is something Jesus would do. Isn’t he afraid of offending those he calls “the strong arms of corporate America” (many of which are behind Warner Bros, which distributes his records) or even the Christian circuit? He’s pragmatic about the whole thing.
“Yes, there is a sense of kind of being in bed with the evil person, but you have to use that vehicle to be able to get your message out,” he said. “People like you and I, we all work for a corporation whose hands are not totally clean. We just try to be able to maneuver and be righteous in the midst of the darkness that is out there.”
Ultimately, he lets the music do the talking. To San Antonio, he’ll come with the full arsenal: top guest musicians (including BET’s Sunday Best winner Amber Bullock), a 10-piece band, and a chorus of eight singers.
“It is going to be the biggest revival, holy-ghost party the people have ever seen in San Antonio,” said Franklin, adding that his set alone will be close to two hours. “We’ll be on stage for hours just jamming. We’re doing it all. When I come to San Antonio, we’re coming to do it big.” •